Learning About Digital Events at a F2F Event in Calgary

Author: David McMillin       

PCMA continues to empower event strategists with the tools necessary to execute digital and hybrid events. Case in point: the inaugural edition of the DES Boot Camp — an in-person event — held in July in Calgary.

The majority of meeting professionals enrolled in PCMA’s DES program have grown accustomed to learning online. After all, the “D” stands for digital. From July 26–29, though, PCMA worked with Meetings + Conventions Calgary to offer 18 DES candidates an opportunity to dim the glow of their screens and come together face-to-face in Calgary for the first-ever DES Boot Camp. The program packed all 10 modules of the DES course into two days for the group of students who traveled from the U.S., Europe, and other parts of Canada.

Dave Sclanders, executive director, Meetings + Conventions Calgary, said that the organization and its partners — BMO Centre, Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, and Travel Alberta — are all proud to align with PCMA’s push to deliver tools and resources that empower meeting professionals with digital expertise. While they recognize that the industry is “evolving at warp speed,” Sclanders said, he thinks that all the emerging technology represents a complement — not a replacement — for attendee engagement. “We continue to believe that face-to-face meetings remain the most effective way to communicate, debate, collaborate, and even learn, and that integrating technology with face-to-face is a recipe for success,” Sclanders said.

Leslie Wingler, education manager at PCMA and the lead instructor for the program, used that blueprint for the boot camp. Rather than wait for participants to arrive in Calgary to get to know each other, Wingler organized them into virtual groups and assigned advance coursework for them to complete with their peers. They began working together in May to prepare for the intense coursework in late July. “My hope for this process was to prevent that awkward feeling of walking into a room of strangers or randomly sitting by yourself,” Wingler said. “We wanted active and engaged learning.”

Wingler’s homework approach paid off for arriving attendees. “The feeling of already being familiar with your peers created that feeling of comfortability and openness to active learning,” Wingler said.

Organizers Get Educated, Too

Wingler said she was very pleased with the results of the first boot camp, but the event did more than teach DES students — the program provided inspiration for PCMA, too.

“Taking the course from a digital setting to a face-to-face environment made quite an impression on us,” Wingler said. “It served as a reminder that we need to do more to incorporate group activities into online sessions and courses. With the face-to-face environment, candidates were more apt to speak up with personal experiences, share ideas, and ask questions they have about producing digital events than we have been seeing in online-only courses. It’s definitely easier to get peer support when you’re all sitting together in a room and we want to create that sense of confidence and support in our online course as well.”


A Calgary Celebration

It’s also easier to have fun when sitting together in a room. Calgary chose two unique daytime venues for the education: an infield suite at the Calgary Stampede and the 54th floor of the city’s Bow Tower. In the evening, participants enjoyed Calgary’s “White Hat Hospitality” at venues such as The Studio Bell National Music Centre and the Calgary Zoo. Wingler called the experience “a great mix of education and tourism.”

Interested in learning more about earning your DES? Click here. And if you’re interested in learning more about what your peers have done in Calgary at their face-to-face events, check out this feature on the International Play Association.

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